200MW wind auction for Canberra

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) will hold an auction for 200MW of wind power this year, its government announced today.

The ACT – the territory that includes Australia’s capital city Canberra – said the auction will be the biggest step yet towards its ambitious 90% renewable energy target for 2020.

According to environment minister Simon Corbell, staging the process this year means the ACT can benefit from the wider uncertainty dogging Australian wind development under the less sympathetic regime of a federal Coalition government led by Tony Abbott, which is scrapping or reviewing key policies.

Corbell said: "Because of the Commonwealth Renewable Energy Target (RET) review, wind is currently a buyer's market.

“By moving quickly, the ACT can expect lower prices now than if we were to defer the required investments to a later time.”

The reverse auction will be open to regional power producers “but also to generators further afield in circumstances where they demonstrate exceptional local economic development benefits and competitive pricing”, Corbell said.

"Opening up the wind auction to a geographically broader base means more competition, more innovation and potentially lower prices. But the conditions on broader participation mean this cannot be at the expense of local jobs."

The wind output bought via the process is expected to supply almost a quarter of the ACT’s power needs, equivalent to about 80,000 Canberra homes, said the minister.

No date was announced for the auction, but a statement said it will be completed this year.

The territory expects the auction to cost about A$1.30 ($1.16) per household per week, as part of the already-announced A$4 per week cost of meeting the 2020 renewables goal.

ACT has emerged as a strong supporter of renewables. It staged Australia’s first reverse auction for solar capacity in 2012 and recently announced plans for a 50MW “solar technology innovation precinct".

Corbell said: "This is the largest step taken by the ACT Government to date to meet the 90% renewable energy target by 2020.”